BOSTON — Through a quarter-and-a-half at TD Garden on Thursday night, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers looked completely lifeless.
Two nights after getting whacked by 42 points in a loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Lakers trailed the Boston Celtics by 18 points and were well on their way to a second straight blowout loss.
But James and the young Lakers rallied, scoring 42 points in the third quarter to take a lead into the final stanza.
The Celtics retook the lead early in the fourth and led by two with 37 seconds remaining when Kyle Kuzma drilled a 3-pointer to give LA a one-point lead with 18.5 seconds remaining. Kyrie Irving came down and banked in a layup to give the Celtics back the advantage, but Rajon Rondo grabbed a loose ball and hit a mid-range jumper as time expired to give the Lakers a 129-128 win.
With the loss, the Celtics fall to 35-20, while the Lakers improve to 28-27.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris Sr.
C: Al Horford
Both teams struggled to find a rhythm at first, with the Celtics holding a slim 11-9 advantage after the opening six minutes of play.
The Celtics found a bit of a groove in the second half of the frame, while the Lakers continued to struggle from the field. Boston took a 30-24 lead into the second quarter thanks to six points from Irving and Smart, respectively.
LA shot just 37.5 percent from the field in the frame, but Lance Stephenson poured in nine points off the bench to keep them within arm’s reach.
C’S OPEN IT UP, LAKERS FIGHT BACK
Boston’s bench thoroughly outplayed the Lakers’ second unit to open the second quarter, outscoring LA 18-11 in the first four minutes of the frame. The Lakers were forced to take a timeout after Jaylen Brown threw down a thunderous breakaway dunk to push the lead to 13.
Boston continued to pummel the Lakers in the second quarter, growing its lead to 18 and causing LA to take another timeout with six minutes remaining.
James and the Lakers didn’t quit, though, as LA closed the frame on a 16-7 run over the final 4:05 to cut the lead to 66-57 at the break.
James and Stephenson led all scorers with 14 apiece, while Tatum, Brown and Terry Rozier each scored 11.
LAKERS HEAT UP
LA opened the second half with more focus and intensity than they showed in the first, ripping off a 10-4 run over the first 3:56 to cut Boston’s lead to 70-67.
After struggling from downtown in the first half, the Lakers went 9-for-13 from the 3-point line in the period en route to a 42-point (!) quarter that gave them a 99-93 lead after three.
Kuzma led all scorers with 20 after three, while Tatum paced Boston with 18.
LAKERS WIN THRILLER
The Celtics found their legs quickly to begin the final frame.
With James, Kuzma and Ingram on the bench, Boston’s second unit opened the stanza on a 9-2 run to take a one-point lead with 10:10 to play.
The C’s lead sat at 112-110 with 4:44 left when James and Irving started to duel. First, Irving beat Kuzma off the dribble and finished at the rim. James came back down and drilled a triple, but Irving answered with a 3-pointer of his own to push the lead to four. After James clanked one from deep, Irving came down and drew a foul on his ex-mate, sinking two free throws to grow the lead to six.
Boston led by six with 1:24 to play and appeared to have the game in hand, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and James drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 124 with 34.8 seconds remaining.
After two Tatum free throws gave the Celtics the lead, Ingram found Kuzma for a wide-open 3-pointer that the forward buried to give LA a one-point lead with 18.5 seconds left.
Irving received the ball and blew past Ingram and Kuzma, banking in a layup to give Boston the lead with 11 seconds left. Brandon Ingram came down and missed a layup, but Rondo grabbed the rebound and drilled a jumper at the horn to give LA the win.
PLAY OF THE GAME
*insert fire emoji here*
The Celtics hit the hardwood again Saturday night when they host the Los Angeles Clippers. Tip-off from TD Garden is set for 8 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images